Criminal Defendants Experience Excessive Force by Law Enforcement

A random sample of emergency room physicians inquired whether police used excessive force. Virtually all said police use excessive force to detain and arrest suspects, as reported in the January, 2009 issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal.

There were 315 respondents to the survey. Of these, 99.8 percent believed police used excessive force, and 97.8 percent reported they had emergency cases in which they suspected excessive force or the patient stated law enforcement had used excessive force. Emergency physicians at public teaching hospitals were approximately four times more likely to report seeing cases of suspected police excessive force than physicians at university or community teaching emergency departments, according to Dr. Jared Strote of the University of Washington, Seattle.

Most emergency physicians (71.2 percent) stated they did not report cases of suspected law enforcement excessive force. The most common type of injury cited was blunt trauma from fists or feet, followed by overly tight handcuffs.

Most of the respondents (96.5 percent) reported they had no departmental policies on reporting their suspicions or they did not know or a policy to guide them, while 93.7 percent said they had received no education or training in dealing with such situations. However 69.5 percent of the responding physicians believed it was within their scope of practice to refer cases of suspected use of excessive force for investigation and almost half (47.9 percent) felt that emergency physicians should legally be required to report cases of suspected use of excessive force by law enforcement.

While this excessive use of force appears to be routine, most people arrested by law enforcement do not bring civil rights actions against the officers. It is a very difficult thing to prove and practically, close calls would be decided in favor of the police. Unless it’s especially outrageous, such as a case a number of years ago, where police were caught on video severely beating a suspect who was not resisting or being confrontational, this is a charge that is not commonly brought against law enforcement.

However, when someone does experience a severe instance of excessive force they certainly need and deserve good legal representation. That’s why I recommend people go to my website at to learn how to choose the right lawyer as well as other important information.


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